More positive developments on wind turbine sound

Recently released research investigating wind turbine sound complaints in the province of Alberta Canada and infrasound and low-frequency sound levels near Australian wind farms provides a compelling argument for wind energy. Chris Long’s article below highlights this research, showing that wind turbine sound complaints are uncommon unless instigated by anti-wind groups and that infrasound and low-frequency sound levels are not impacted by nearby wind farms.

By Chris Long

The last few weeks have been busy ones on wind turbine sound, with new
developments continuing to cast doubt on anti-wind groups’
claims.Perhaps the most telling is a new study from Canada’s Pembina Institute, looking at wind farm complaints (or rather, the lack of wind farm complaints) in the province of Alberta, where some of the earliest wind farms in Canada were installed.

In a blog post about the study, Pembina’s Benjamin Thibault explains,
“[U]nlike some parts of the country, we don’t tend to hear much about
[wind power in Alberta], so my colleagues and I wondered whether, in
fact, we were just missing something.”

In fact, it turned out, while the Alberta Utilities Commission, which
regulates electricity in the province, has a 13-year-old database with
the records of 31,000 contacts from members of the public, not one of
those 31,000 contacts has been about the sound of operating wind
turbines. That’s a very striking finding, but it lends credence to the
work of Australian Prof. Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney, who has a pending study
finding that complaints about turbine sound in Australia are heavily
focused on areas where anti-wind groups have been conducting public

Pembina researchers went further to unearth evidence of complaints, Mr. Thibault says, contacting:

“- Operators of existing wind energy projects;
– Municipalities (municipal districts and counties) where operating wind energy projects are located;
– Local and provincial health authorities; and
– Municipal agricultural fieldmen.”

The results?

“The operators of the wind farms did report some complaints during
operations, noting eight unique complaints, most of which were resolved
noise complaints (five), along with a few generalized complaints about
wind energy broadly.

“Only three complaints about operating wind farms came to the seven
Alberta municipalities with wind energy projects: one about ice throw
that was investigated and dismissed, one about the density of wind
turbines offering a terrorism opportunity, and one about noise, which
was referred to the operator.

“No more complaints were found with the health contacts surveyed (two
regional health inspectors covering municipal districts with over half
of Alberta’s wind energy) or the livestock contacts (five agricultural
fieldmen also covering the majority of the experience).”


Speak Up for Clean Energy on the Highland Wind Farm

If you support wind energy development in Wisconsin, and if you believe a responsibly designed project should not be shouted down by antiwind pressure groups, please communicate your position to the Public Service Commission, which will decide the fate of the Highland Wind project later this year. The Commission will accept online comments through August 12th.

Speak Up for Clean Energy on the Highland Wind Farm 


The Highland Wind Farm is a clean energy project proposed for the Town of Forest (St. Croix County).  The proposed farm will have 41 turbines and generate 102.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 25,000 homes.  The process of getting the Highland Wind Farm permitted has been an ongoing battle riddled with propaganda and misinformation about wind.  Recently we were pleased to learn that the Public Service Commission (PSC) agreed to reopen the case and reconsider permitting the wind farm.  Although a public hearing has been scheduled for August 14, at 610 North Whitney Way, Madison, in the Amnicon Falls Room (First Floor) the PSC has informed us that they will hear testimony from the general public on August 15.  You may also submit online comments until August 13.  Unfortunately, opponents are already commenting, and they will be out in full force at the public hearing.  Don’t let a vocal minority shut the door on clean energy in Wisconsin!  Send in your comments today, and make plans to attend the public hearing. 

You can submit a comment following these steps:1.    Click here for the PSC website and fill out your information2.    Write your comment.  Feel free to use our talking points below to help form your comment, but also be sure to tell your personal story and reason for wanting more clean, wind energy in Wisconsin.3.    Click ‘File Comments’

Talking Points:

  • Wisconsin is falling behind in the clean energy transition.  All of our neighboring states have installed more wind than Wisconsin.  Meanwhile in our state, at least 3 wind projects have been canceled in the past few years after the legislature temporarily suspended Wisconsin’s uniform wind-siting rules, causing the loss of hundreds of megawatts of clean energy and over 1,000 potential jobs.
  • The Highland Wind Farm will create over 100 jobs during construction and up to 8 permanent jobs.  Over the next 30 years, it would provide $4.8 million in revenue to Forest Township, and over $6.8 million to St. Croix County.
  • The most significant commercial activity in the Town of Forest is farming.  The 25 host landowners would benefit from lease payments offered by the Highland Wind Farm, and this income is critical for anchoring the many family farms in this area.
  • The Highland Wind Farm will follow Wisconsin’s Wind Siting Law, PSC 128, a policy created by a range of stakeholders over a several years designed to create business certainty and overcome the patchwork of local regulations that has threatened clean energy development in Wisconsin. 
  • The Public Service Commission needs to make decisions based on the law and what is good for the health of Wisconsin.  The Highland Wind Farm is both.
  • Wisconsin wants and needs wind and we shouldn’t let a vocal minority block clean energy opportunities.

Shahla M. Werner, Ph.D., Chapter DirectorSierra Club- John Muir Chapter222 South Hamilton Street, Suite 11Madison, WI 53703-3201shahla.werner@sierraclub.orgPhone: (608) 256-0565Fax: (608) 256-4JMC

Monona Rolls Out Welcome Mat for Solar Energy: Four City Buildings to be Powered by Rooftop Arrays

–Immediate Release

In what will become the largest solar electric project serving a Wisconsin municipality, the City of Monona approved a contract this week that will result in the construction of rooftop arrays supplying renewable energy directly to four city-owned buildings. All four solar systems, totaling 156 kilowatts, should be online by year’s end.

The four Monona buildings selected to host the solar electric arrays are: City Hall, Public Library, Public Works Garage, and Public Works Dept. Well No. 3. All told, the solar arrays will produce more than 210,000 kilowatt-hours of clean energy per year, equating to 30% of the buildings’ combined electricity usage.

The City will receive a stream of renewable energy credits along with the electrical output under a solar service partnership agreement with Falcon Energy Systems, a Colorado based investment group. Bloomington, MN-based tenKsolar will manufacture the solar generating arrays, and Madison-based Full Spectrum Solar will install and service the equipment on the city-owned sites. Earlier this month, tenKsolar and Full Spectrum Solar teamed up to install a 48 kilowatt system on the Arbor Crossing apartments in Shorewood Hills.

The project team was assembled by Solar Connections, LLC, a Madison consulting group that has also developed residential solar installations that were financed primarily by friends and neighbors of the host customer.

Consultants Kurt Reinhold and James Yockey first introduced this municipal solar model to the  Sustainability Committee of the City of Monona in September of 2012, and has since been joined by Janine Glaeser, City Project Manager, to shepherd this project through numerous committees and hearings before Monday’s unanimous vote to adopt the resolution to enter into this solar services contract.

“Five years ago, Monona passed a resolution committing itself to greatly expand its own use of renewable energy by 2025,” said Kurt Reinhold, a principal with Solar Connections. “Not only will this partnership help Monona achieve its sustainable energy goals, it will also help the City save on its energy bills.”

“With this action, Monona joins the growing circle of Wisconsin businesses, communities and individuals committed to serving themselves with renewable energy produced on-site,” said Michael Vickerman, program and policy director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide renewable energy advocacy organization.

“Through their actions, forward-thinking entities like Monona will reduce Wisconsin’s dependence on imported fossil fuels in a way that creates jobs and invigorates the local economy,” Vickerman said.

Read Gina Covelli’s article in the Herald Independent to learn more

Collaboration Between Rosendale Dairy, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Renewable Energy Firms Enables the States Largest Dairy Farm to Begin Waste-to-Energy Project

Rosendale Dairy’s University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh funded biodigester is predicted to supply 1,200 homes with electricity. Read Tom Content’s article to learn how the BIOFerm headed project will help the University achieve it’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2025.

By Thomas Content

A $7 million waste-to-energy manure digester will be built at Rosendale Dairy in Pickett, in a collaboration between the dairy, renewable energy firms and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.The project, kicked off Tuesday, consists of a large biodigester energy facility, learning laboratory and a public education center at Milk Source’s Rosendale Dairy, the state’s largest dairy farm with more than 8,000 cows, located in Fond du Lac County. 

The project is being funded by the UW-Oshkosh Foundation in support of the climate emission targets and sustainability education efforts in place at the university. 

The digester, to be completed by the end of the year, will use methane from livestock waste to produce electricity that will be sold to the electric power grid through an arrangement with Madison-based Alliant Energy Corp.The digester is expected to generate 1.4 megawatts of electricity, or enough to supply about 1,200 typical homes, according to BIOFerm Energy Systems of Madison, which is overseeing the project. 

UW-Oshkosh plans to tap carbon credits from the renewable power generated at the site to help it fulfill its climate change emission reduction commitment.“The campus hopes to also use it go help us greatly accelerate our carbon neutrality goal, which was 2025,” said Alex Hummel, UW-Oshkosh spokesman. “Early estimates from when we were sizing up the collaboration show we could reduce that to about 2017 or 2018.” 

UW-Oshkosh and BIOFerm opened a first-of-its-kind dry fermentation digester, about one-seventh the size of this project, in 2011. The digester converts food waste and yard waste to energy. 

Partners in the project include BIOFerm and its Germany-based parent company, Viessmann Group, as well as Alliant Energy and Madison-based Soil Net.BIOFerm also is the developer of a third area project, a small family-farm-scaled digester that is currently in the pilot stage that also processes livestock waste.

Will Wisconsin Ever Let the Sunshine In?

A commentary
by Michael Vickerman, Director, Policy and Programs, RENEW Wisconsin

dismissed by electric utilities as a boutique energy resource, solar power has
become the go-to renewable resource for a wide variety of electricity
customers. From data centers to department stores, from airports to auto
dealerships, more and more customers around the country are tapping into this
clean and quiet energy source that shines on their rooftops every day.
solar energy’s growth has been nothing short of phenomenal. In the first
quarter of 2013, solar energy accounted for nearly half (49%) of the new
generating capacity built, elbowing out wind and natural gas as the fastest-growing
energy source in the United States. Declining installation costs coupled with
easier access to third-party owned systems account for solar’s rapid
advancement, especially in the residential sector. Even utilities in select
states have begun diversifying their resource mix with large solar arrays.
businesses and homeowners in all 50 states can take advantage of the 30%
federal investment tax credit in place through 2016. However, not all 50 states
have flourishing solar markets. This is true even in states where electric
rates are high enough to tempt homeowners and businesses to supply themselves
with energy from the sun. Unfortunately, Wisconsin happens to be one of those
states with a languishing solar market, though it wasn’t always that way.  
Five years
ago, Wisconsin was a regional leader in encouraging customer investments in
rooftop solar. Early adopters then could avail themselves of special solar
buyback rates which most electric providers offered on a limited basis. For customers
of utilities that did not offer these higher rates, a fair and transparent net
metering service was available. The state’s Focus on Energy program contributed
significantly to solar’s early success with grants and incentives that
supported start-up installation contractors. In fact, that program instilled
them with confidence that Wisconsin was a solid place to do business.  
Fast forward
to today, and you see a very different market environment for solar energy
here.  Attractive buyback rates in
Wisconsin have become a distant memory. Some utilities have restructured their
net metering service to make self-generation substantially less appealing to
customers. And while state incentives for solar installations are still
available, the flow of dollars has been reduced to a modest trickle. Solar
contractors, like the rest of Wisconsin’s renewable energy business community,
cope with the hard times by pursuing work opportunities in neighboring states
like Iowa and Minnesota.
installed costs of solar today are about half of what they were in 2008, while
the price of utility-supplied electricity continues to move higher. Given the
fact that solar’s return on investment to customers has never been higher, the
attitudinal about-face we’re seeing is as inexplicable as it is
Wisconsin raises the proverbial drawbridge to protect utilities from solar’s
advances, the state of Minnesota, in stark contrast, has rolled out the welcome
mat to this emerging industry. Just one month ago, Minnesota became the first
state in the Upper Midwest to establish a solar electric standard. By 2020, the
state’s largest utilities will need to source 1.5% of the electricity they sell
at retail from solar generation systems. 
Through the
same law, Minnesota strengthened its net metering policy, and required Xcel
Energy, the state’s largest utility, to provide a community solar service to
its customers. This innovative provision will enable Xcel customers who can’t
host a solar system on their premises to invest in a nearby installation and
receive a modest return through their monthly bills.  
What does
Minnesota hope to achieve by adopting such an aggressive solar energy policy?
The list of
objectives is long:
Ø  Promote manufacturing and contracting
opportunities for solar energy and “green” construction firms;
Ø  Expand employment opportunities
for the state’s work force;
Ø  Enhance the ability of business
and residential customers to manage their electricity costs;
Ø  Modernize the state’s electrical
infrastructure and diversify its resource mix;
Ø  Attract private investment
capital into its energy sector from both in-state and out-of-state sources;
Ø  Minimize exposure to fuel price
volatility, especially during on-peak hours;
Ø  Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
associated with electricity generation;
Ø  Reduce imports of fossil fuel;
Ø  Promote the state as a
destination location for clean–tech companies. 
the ingredients are now in place for an instructive side-by-side study on the
value of state policy in advancing solar energy, with Minnesota serving as the
test case and Wisconsin serving as the control. In terms of both solar resource
and utility regulatory structure, the two states are very similar to each
other.  And, with each state having about
14 megawatts of installed solar capacity, both share the same baseline from
which to measure progress.
Indeed, the
only significant difference going forward is state energy policy. In Minnesota,
solar is subject to a state mandate that is projected to increase current
capacity, in seven short years, by a factor of 30. In adjoining Wisconsin,
solar operates within a policy vacuum. 
This raises
the question, what do we gain from participating in an experiment in which
Minnesota reaps all the economic and environmental benefits from its solar
investments while we get to send more dollars out of state for fuel
to feed 40-year-old power plants?
The fact is
that Wisconsin cannot afford to stand idly by while Minnesota plugs itself squarely
into a dynamic industry segment and exerts a gravitational pull on private
investment and start-up companies in the region. It’s no secret that Wisconsin
has struggled to find its economic bearings in the wake of the Great Recession.
In contrast, clean energy has provided a great lift in other states that had
the foresight to sow the marketplace with some well-thought and welcoming
policy seeds.
In a popular
two-part Simpsons episode, the diabolical Montgomery Burns builds a
giant disc to block the sun’s rays from reaching Springfield, forcing city
residents to become even more reliant on the power plant he owns. Though
clearly cartoon satire, those of us who are 
watching the ongoing retreat from solar energy know that if Wisconsin
has any chance of capturing at least its proportional share of an industry that
yielded $11.5 billion in new projects in 2012, it has to ditch the Mr. Burns
act and begin designing a policy to let the sunshine in.